Tokyo's Shinjuku Ward. That's what it used to be called.
The damage it suffered from the past war was enough to reshape the land and the reconstructed Shinjuku was different from the original.
This city that held the Inquisition's headquarters flourished and sparkled more than any land in old Japan.
But now there wasn't a single remnant of that.
The post-war devastation from 150 years ago had come once again.
The collapsed buildings and trees. Cars in flames. The smell of burned human bodies.
Not even a single person was alive in here.
The victims weren't just inquisitors and sorcerers.
Ordinary people... children and the elderly, even pregnant women were lying on the roads.
Nearly all the bodies were dried up as if mummified.
"...this, is... what..."
Usagi crouched and held her mouth.
It wasn't just Usagi, everyone was horrified.
Only half a day had passed since the war had began, this much damage was unusual.
Under the gloomy, cloudy sky, there was hell.
"Why were the civilians still here...?! Why weren't they evacuated...!"
Ouka spat out those words with anger.
"No vital reactions...? No way right...? There were hundreds of thousands people in here...!!"
She desperately used magic to search surroundings, but there wasn't a single sign of life within the range.
In the place the shelter was in, there was a crater that looked like one after bombing. The white powder in the air must have been the only remnant after humans.
They could only think that the enemy had prioritized attacking on the location with the most civilians.
"It's also strange that there's no signs of Inquisition or Valhalla either... it wouldn't turn out like this even if they used Hyakki Yakou. All the bodies are dried up..."
Even Ikaruga couldn't imagine what happened.
"It's something Valhalla would do. Not like they started doing this now. What do we do, Kusanagi. Rejoin the alliance and wait?"
Kyouya made a disgusted expression and asked.
It was a sound judgment to prioritize meeting the rest of alliance now that they didn't understand the situation. The enemies lurking in the surroundings weren't limited to just those who show signs of life.
"...we'll head to the academy. Valhalla's destination is Inquisition's headquarters... we need to stop them."
If they don't, Kiseki will enter combat.
Takeru was bothered by the fact Kiseki still hasn't appeared, but thought about going to meet her and allowing his sword to carry his feelings.
He couldn't afford Valhalla to get in the way of their sibling fight.
Judging by the damage dealt to this city, it'll be too late if they don't hurry.
Takeru and the others hurried on the road to school.
The more they advanced forward the more of the same scenery they have seen. There was no one alive as they passed, not a single voice.
The city that had so many people living in it was silent as if there was no one in there in the first place.
This city was dead, in just half a day its life was exhausted.
Ouka who arrived at the school gate fell on her knees.
The first thing that entered the sight upon coming here, the symbol of this place, the tower with sealed Magical Heritages.
It was collapsed starting from the root.
The Coliseum for large-scale exercises, the campus, the dormitories, faculty buildings, everything... and anything was destroyed.
There were corpses of the inquisitors and the students lied around the gate's defense line as well as miserable wreckage of Dragoons. From the opposing side, corpses of the sorcerers and wreckage of Magical Dragoons could be seen.
It was clear that Inquisition resisted with all it had.
"...the academy was..."
Pale, Usagi looked at the collapsed school.
All the members of the 35th Platoon that passed through here had the same feelings. Even though they were unpleasant, there were memories of their comrades in here. They laughed together, fought against each other and grew together.
The familiar classrooms, the crowded dining room, the depressing shooting grounds, the Coliseum where the mock battle tournaments were carried out, the school yard that was packed during Witch Hunt Festival... and their platoon room.
All of it was destroyed and gone.
There was no way they wouldn't receive shock.
This place was where the 35th Test Platoon belonged to.
The place for them to return to.
"...what do we do... Takeru... hey, what do we doo...?!"
Trembling, Mari clung to Takeru.
When she grasped his clothes, Takeru's posture broke.
Sage who was right beside him, supported Takeru's body.
"...! At a time like this...!"
Takeru's vision shook, a pain as if he was hit in the head with a club had assaulted him.
If his concentration is interrupted even for a moment, the Soumatou will activate by itself.
Its running out of control came like a seizure. Trying to control it had come along with a tremendous amount of pain.
Losing all his strength, he fell down on his knees despite Sage supporting him.
"Don't force yourself. It's dangerous for you to fight in this state. 35th Platoon should hide. We and the Sixth Guard will carry out reconnaissance, starting with scouting for enemies in the academy."
"It's fine, leave it to us. This kind of work is our specialty. No clue about the Guard though."
When Sage said that, Yuzuho yelled furiously "whaattt?!"
"We too can do scouting just fine! How dare you compare our miracles with your pagan witchcraft——?!!"
It was when she was refuting with a rough voice.
Although Yuzuho tried to strike the ground with her spear, she swung it sideways instead.
——Momentarily, in the empty space right beside her, a giant body had suddenly emerged.
Her swung spear hit the giant that had emerged.
But the giant didn't even flinch from the blow.
Surprised Ouka materialized Vlad and pulled the trigger to the limit.
Blood-colored stakes burst into the giant's head and chest.
The damage dealt——none. They were unable to penetrate through the translucent, shining armor.
Sage immediately expanded his magical circle and made a chain appear from the ground.
The chain attached itself to the emerging Einherjar's body, temporarily stopping its movement.
"All members, spread out! Move away!"
In response to Sage's voice, everyone rushed in various directions.
As Takeru couldn't move, after turning into Witch Hunter form Ouka lent him a shoulder and leaped all at once to make distance.
The chain that wound around the Einherjar had stopped its movement for a moment, but soon enough it was torn apart and the railgun-shaped sword was pierced onto the ground.
Along with the magic name, the light blue magic circle shone.
Takeru shouted over his shoulder.
Sage continued to maintain magic in order to buy time to escape.
Right after that, crystals have overflowed from the magic circle's center. Crystals protruding in acute angles like icicles of a glacier swallowed Sage, and the next moment——the light burst out.
Ouka who carried Takeru on her shoulder hid in the building's debris together with Ikaruga.
A shockwave swallowed up everything, shrouding the surroundings in smoke.
Inside the smoke that was the aftermath, Ouka put down Takeru on his back on the rubble.
"Hide in here, Takeru...!"
"I'll fight... too...!!"
"What if you exhaust yourself here! Your power is our trump card! Suginami, take care of Takeru!"
Ouka shook off Takeru's hand and rushing out, she disappeared in smoke.
Takeru tried to go after her, but Ikaruga grasped his shoulders stopping him.
Although he tried to shake her off, but as the shaking in his brain assaulted him again, he ended up falling to the ground.
His outstretched hand fell to the ground, he clenched his fist in frustration.
The smoke had began to clear up, with two guns in her hands Ouka aimed at the appearing opponent.
It was unknown what happened to Sage. The Einherjar was alive and well, with the constraints released he gracefully pulled out the railgun from the ground.
The crystal-like armor... most likely the enemy's armor was made of Blue Crystal. They will have a hard time trying to damage it.
At the same time Ouka raised her weapons, Mari and Usagi appeared from the sides.
"Please leave support to us."
"Blue Crystal... that's nasty. Well, he's no opponent for my magic."
"Don't let your guard down. I'll be the decoy. Saionji, support me. Nikaido, prepare a large-scale magic... let's bring him down with one blow."
" "Roger!" "
At the same time the two replied, Ouka began her attack.
She kicked off the ground and jumped forward at the same time as she fired a stake at enemy's shoulder, the first blow shot through the smoke.
Along with a high-pitched sound, the Einherjar's railblade and the stake collided.
The reason she challenged him in the close combat, was to not allow him to fire magic bullets. Because Einherjars had an unusual amount of magical power, even magic bullets fired by them were ridiculously powerful.
They couldn't match him in rapid fire. The best course of action was to focus on close combat before annihilating him with Mari's magic.
The enemy's armor was made of Blue Crystal. Cooperating with Usagi, Ouka wanted to make a crack in the armor. If they confirm the Einherjars identity they might find his weakness, but she aimed to act like Takeru, moving before she thinks.
Fortunately, her allies right now weren't just the platoon members.
"Guards' Spearsmanship ——Eternal Triple Flash!"
At the same time a voice was heard from above, Ouka leaped away from the Einherjar.
As they exchanged positions, Yuzuho hit the Einherjar's head with her spear. When she made her attack, to Ouka it seemed as if there were three Yuzuhos.
It was an illusion made using magic that made it seem like there were three of her.
The Einherjar staggered, Yuzuho landed on the ground.
Although it seemed as if Einherjar would fall on his back, on the verge of collapse he had aimed at Yuzuho who landed on the ground.
Yuzuho bent her knees and jumped, but it was too late for her to avoid. The enemy's magical bullet was slightly faster.
That's when, a green shadow had slid in from behind Yuzuho.
It was Kyouya.
Kyouya passed between Yuzuho's legs and slipped under the Einherjar.
Nero's shotgun fire hit the Einherjar from zero distance.
The armor on the abdomen crumbled off, the semi-transparent pieces danced in the air like glass.
But the shattered armor was repaired momentarily, like a video playback, it had returned to its original state.
Despite the fact it looked like a Dragoon, inside there was an Einherjar. The railgun was also a Magical Heritage, it was appropriate for it to have a special performance.
However, it wasn't like the 35th Test Platoon was unfamiliar with combat against Einherjars as to let him repair.
Along with the sound of gun fire, five bullets slipped past Yuzuho and Ouka.
The bullets pierced the armor made of Blue Crystal on the verge of repair, pulverizing it again.
Usagi stood holding her rifle, smoke rose up from the muzzle.
"——Nikaido, please take care of it."
When Usagi said that with a squint, a rainbow-colored shadow had come flying from the sky.
That silhouette swinging its right arm, was the Witch of Aurora, Nikaido Mari.
Expanding five-layered magical circle, Mari swung her both arms with all her strength.
Magical power converged to the limit, her joined two hands shone.
——Mari swung down her hands at Einherjar's head, releasing the magic.
" " " "——HEYY?!!" " " "
The accumulated magic exploded, wrapping the surroundings momentarily. Everyone turned pale on spot. Everyone expanded barriers and protection as not to get engulfed in the shock wave and Ouka acted as Usagi's shield.
Mari who pulverized the Einherjar landed lightly on the ground and making a V sign with her fingers she directed it towards her comrades.
"How was it, howw? Did'ya see it? My magic is the strongest after all! I wouldn't mind if you praised me〜!"
As Mari puffed up her chest and burst into a smug expression, everyone on spot got pissed off.
Everyone was covered in pure white dust that was raised into the air.
"Think of your attack's range, retard!"
"Good grief, sorcerers are always like this! Really!"
"Just now it was enough to kill us all you imbecile!"
"Since you are a lady you should hold back a little!"
"...sorry everyone... but would you pull me out...? I've been buried even deeper just now."
Dissatisfied with the situation where she was blamed by everyone, Mari stomped the ground with "what's with you all〜". Sage who was completely buried in the rubble also seemed safe and was pulled out by other members of the Pureblood Party.
Seeing everyone was safe, Ouka sighed with relief.
"...that Einherjar, it can't be that..."
"Without a doubt it was transfer magic... but transfer magic isn't something that can be used so easily... the consumption of magical power is huge, and the formula for sending someone in without a gate on the other side isn't so simple."
After questioning Mari about the transfer magic, Ouka's expression turned steeper.
"Which means they've improved it?"
"...even so, it's still abnormal. If there's anyone who could use such a thing it would be——"
When Mari was about to say it, that moment.
A distortion in time and space appeared and like a puzzle, giant humanoid was gradually formed out of single pieces combining in an empty space.
A new Einherjar. And it wasn't over with just one, their numbers increased very fast.
After just a few seconds, Ouka and the others were surrounded by an army of Einherjars.
"...speak of the devil...!"
"These numbers... what do we do?!"
Everyone poised themselves back to back, horrified seeing the emerging Einherjars in the surroundings.
Twenty in total. Each of them being a one-man army, previously summoned King Arthur had partially destroyed AntiMagic Academy by himself. Siegfried summoned in the Border too, was a formidable enemy for a company and the 35th Platoon before he was taken down.
And now there were twenty of monsters of that class.
Even though they were finally able to take one of them down with participation of six members.
"Keh... coming with numbers, huh. Fine by me...!"
Kyouya changed Nero's form into tonfas and raised them up.
"Don't move carelessly... stop...!"
Sage pulled out a wand from his belt and poised it.
"Black magicians are really beyond help... putting spirits of the dead inside mechanical dolls... there should be a limit to bad taste."
Holding a spear, Yuzuho had her comrades stay behind and moved towards the front.
The Einherjars looked for any movements of the enemy with their emotionless, mechanical eyes.
If anyone moves, they will attack all at once. Feeling as if they were surrounded by a pack of beasts, all the members felt their nerves strained.
Gripping their weapons, poising as to be able to attack any time they only stared at Ouka and the others' moves.
Unexpectedly light entered through between clouds, blinding everyone.
Blinking, Usagi looked upwards in surprise.
And there was——
"As I thought, it was you all."
While wary of the Einherjars, everyone looked upwards.
She was there, in the middle of the light pouring down from between the clouds.
The white figure looking like that of a God's messenger was incredibly mismatched with the appearance of the city that turned into hell.
The woman floated in the air, her white robe flapping in the wind as she coldly looked down at the ground.
Obstructing the light with her hand, Mari angrily called the woman's name.
Mother Goose slowly looked through one member of Heretic Alliance to another, in the end looking at Mari.
"It has been a while, Nikaido Mari-san. It's great to see you in good health."
"Ghh, answer me! Is this massacre your doing?!"
Asked a frank question, Mother nodded in response.
"Yes. Exactly so. I was the one who summoned Einherjars and assaulted this city."
Mother responded indifferently, without any shame.
Mari swung her right arm, making an increasingly rugged expression.
"Why... weren't you supposed to be East Side's top?! Why are you doing something West Side would do! Didn't you say you didn't want to involve unrelated people in the war?!"
"I also have said, that I'm willing to make the minimal sacrifices."
These frosty words caused Mari's anger to culminate.
"Minimal you say...? Just how many hundreds of thousands do you think you killed...?!"
The shock Mari received was indescribable.
More than month ago she was a student of Magic Academy, of course she didn't trust Mother Goose completely. She didn't believe in Mother's pretty words, after all this woman tried to kill her in order not to have information leaked.
But the world of East Side Mari knew was a very comfortable place. All the people living in there were warm.
An utopia for the witches who live outside... the thought that the person who had created it stood behind this massacre had overwhelmed Mari.
As if seeing through Mari's heart, Mother closed her eyes as if to a prayer.
But soon enough she opened her eyes and looked at everyone with her pupils looking like glass beads.
"I won't excuse nor defend myself. This city's sacrifice——is minimal to me."
She overlapped her palms and in mid-air, prayed to the heavens.
"Back down. This is not your battlefield. If you are to become my enemies——"
Her hair was ruffled, her eyes opened wide.
The ruby pupils have spread, dyeing her eyes bright red.
"——The majesty of "God's Authority" will crush you all."
Then a pure white magic circle appeared, looking as if it covered the entire sky and light had poured down from several breaks in the clouds.
An army of Einherjars descended. Their number increased to over a hundred.
The Einherjars surrounding the alliance members also moved. All of them raised their railguns, they fired sparkling magic from the muzzles.
"——Protective magic! Everyone defend!"
At the same time as Ouka cried out, those who were able to use magic have created protective barriers with all magical power they had.
Magic bullets were simply a mass of magical power capable of simple destruction, but with the amount of magical power held by Einherjars, their destructive power was incomparable to normal magic.
Protecting from them was extremely difficult. But surrounded, the had no choice but to protect from them.
The railguns weren't intended for high rate of fire. If they withstand the enemy's barrage, there was a chance of being able to escape.
Sage fluttered the point of his wand, building up a wall of rust and covering everyone with it.
His protective barrier had a very high defense against physical and magical attacks, but got in the way of visibility.
A rust wall strong enough not to even let any sounds in had protected everyone.
"——Ghh...!! Seventh Squad! Everyone build a multi-layered barrier! Mine won't hold!"
As Sage ordered his subordinates, they built up a ward with a joint chant.
Cracks entered Sage's barrier, the sound from the outside flowed in. A wave of magic surged in from the outside. An imminent destruction coming from all sides. The gunfire of the Einherjars... no, the bombing continued.
The moment four people stretched out a barrier, Sage's protection shattered.
The Seventh Squad's quadruple barrier replaced it, but two layers were immediately broken through and the third layer had filled with cracks.
"Guards too, build an inviolable area and reject the magical power! Five overlapping 《Shrouds of Rejection》!"
Yuzuho pierced the ground with her spear, together with the members of the Sixth Guard behind her she solidified the defense. Forming a wire from magical power, she created a strong ward overlapping like a chain mail.
But that barrier too, a piece of wire after piece had collapsed.
Although Yuzuho received magical power from her spear, a Magical Heritage, the limit had come all too soon.
"...nhh, I leave... the rest to you...!"
When she reached her limit, Yuzuho clenched her teeth and said so, and her barrier burst.
At that moment——a rainbow-colored magic circle rose up from the ground.
"Leeaave it to me!"
Scattering rainbow-colored magical power, Mari smashed the magic circle on the ground.
At the same time it was punched, the magic circle was broken and magical power covered her comrades.
It was a huge fortress shaped with magical power. The fortress had perfectly blocked the numerous magic bullets fired by the Einherjars.
If Mari's most powerful attack magic was 《Aurora Gate》, then the 《Aurora Fortress》 was the one that exerted the most powerful defense. Because it required a huge operative procedure, it needed a long chant. Her comrades have earned the time for her to finish it.
This fortress——will not collapse with something on the level of magic bullets.
The Einherjars used not only magic bullets, but also fired different magic. Magic circles were drawn in the air and the magical power materialized things like meteors, rain of spears, dragon apparitions and such, assaulting Mari's fortress.
Cracks appeared on the Aurora Fortress.
And——there were no chances to run.
While the barrage paused, the rest of Einherjars used magic and when the magic had stopped, the barrage of magic bullets began.
"Nikaido...! Hold out!"
"I know... dang it...!!"
At this rate, it will only get worse.
At this rate, the fortress will crumble.
At this rate, everyone will die.
At this rate——
"If that's how it is... then sink... or swim...!"
——Everything ending at this rate, was something "Witch of Aurora" could not accept.
While maintaining a large-scale magic, Mari performed a double magic and chanting. She wanted to create a chance to attack, but targeting the enemy in this situation was impossible.
Then——she needs to call out an existence that would create confusion.
That's what she bet on.
【"If ye doth not tread ov'r living insects, doth not tread ov'r grass, doth not desire destruction of life, respond to mine call. I shine with that radiance. I shine with nobility. Respond to me, respond to me, o' precious beast, let us hear thy beautiful neigh. Come... come...!"】
Along with a chant, Mari closed her eyes and sent her consciousness to another world.
Passing through the distant time and space, Mari's consciousness arrived in that world.
Mari felt that world to be nostalgic. When she was taught basics of summoning magic from the director of the orphanage, she played around by coming in contact with presences in different worlds like this. Even though the existences from another world were capable of feeling her presence, they couldn't understand the words she spoke. That's why, she always just stared at the beautiful beast standing still in a spring in of different world. The beast too, only stared at her.
Still, she was able to feel that the beast had took a liking to her. It may have been just her imagination. She might have been mistaken. But believing in that was the only way to survive now.
Respond to me... please...!
The beast usually standing in the spring, was Mari's hope.
The beast noticed Mari.
And as if responding to her wish, the light in its gentle eyes was reflected in the water.
Mari's consciousness returned to this world and she opened her eyes wide.
And, materializing a huge magic circle behind herself, she spoke.
"Come, Sacred Beast——《Kirin》!"
Sound disappeared from the world for a moment. The Einherjars on spot stopped shooting and their gaze moved to the magic circle Mari made.
The heartless battle dolls, Einherjars have felt a foreign existence was being summoned.
And the next moment——breaking through the magic circle, a beast covered with richly-colored scales tore through space.
Raising its front hooves high, the appearance of it standing on the hind legs as it let out a voice was beautiful, it was undeniably a magical organism——a Sacred Beast 《Kirin》.
Sage and his group, Yuzuho and his group who have communicated with magic looked up at the beautiful beast, astounded.
Even that Mother Goose looked in surprise from the sky, her eyes wide open.
"Impossible... while using that large-scale magic, you summoned a Sacred Beast...?"
Mother Goose denied it as something impossible.
Sacred Beast Summoning was a magic of same degree of difficulty as Hero Summoning. To withstand using it, one required to sacrifice at least tens of thousands of people. Even more so with a Kirin who governs four elements in Chinese mythology's world, a race reigning at the top of the auspicious beasts.
Although there were chants and summoning operative procedures, there was no historical records of succeeding. Even making contact with them was impossible. Much less calling them out, it was as impossible as overturning heaven and earth.
Could such a young girl pull off something that seemed like it had come from old tales?
While Mother Goose was astonished, Mari stroked the Kirin's fur and moved her cheek closer to it.
As if responding to that, the Kirin chirped quietly.
"Please... protect everyone."
The Kirin understood Mari's feelings and neigh again, standing on its hind legs.
Unlike the neigh from earlier, this one was ferocious and rough.
Immediately after its hind legs let out a loud sound——the Kirin clad in magical power of aurora galloped in the air.
The Kirin didn't need a scaffolding. Surpassing the law of the worlds was natural for it.
Any place its hoofs trod upon were equal to prairie spreading as far towards the horizon as an eye can see.
And the brilliant, colorful scales captivating the viewers as well as——a shining horn on its forehead like a treasured sword, was something no creatures in creation were allowed to touch.
The only ones who could touch it and were unharmed, were those recognized as a benevolent by the Kirin.
Therefore——the Einherjars not possessing a heart were unable to stand in the way of Kirin's gallop.
Leaving a rainbow veil behind it, the Kirin rushed through an army of Einherjars. Instead of flying in the air, it galloped through it. The untouchable horn tore apart the Einherjars solid armor like paper, the magic bullets that tried to hit it, were dispersed by the scales.
Kirin's suicidal rush lasted only for an instant.
The Einherjars surrounding Mari and the others were gone, erased by the Kirin's gallop.
And then the Kirin slowly returned to Mari, gracefully rubbing against her face.
It's said that magical organism can become emotionally attached to humans.
That was probably true.
But the Kirin didn't attach itself emotionally to Mari, but rather revered her way of doing things.
As a proof of that, the amount of magical power Mari consumed in order to use Sacred Beast Summoning, was very, very small.
Most likely, this Kirin was the first magical organism that wished to be summoned and hurried to visit by itself.
When Mari said her thanks and stroked its mane, the Kirin let out a shrill neigh and once again jumped into a tear in space and time.
After annihilating the Einherjars, Mari glared at Mother Goose who floated in the sky.
"...I will stop you. I will end this war."
"I'll protect Takeru and everyone...!"
Her eyes full of determination clashed with Mother Goose's cold eyes.
In response to Mari's words, everyone behind her entered combat readiness again.
Even though the Einherjars were wiped out in a moment, Mother Goose continued standing in the sky without any sign of being upset.
"That was quite something. To achieve Sacred Beast Summoning with a human body... you were my student only for about a month, but I'm proud of you as the chairman of Magic Academy."
"Don't screw around... there's no reason for you to do this...! Didn't you want to stop the war?!"
"Changing the world's structure into a correct one, is my earnest desire. For that sake, I need to kill Ootori Sougetsu. The tragedy that happened in here is a passing point for carrying out my purpose."
Knowing what that choice would mean, Mari tried to relay to her that he was a God.
"That man is this world's God... no, he's this world's life itself, I knew that right from the start. If that man dies, magic will disappear from all over the world, the world will lose its balanced and collapse."
"...so you know it, and yet...?!"
"That is exactly why. As long as that man is the God, the world will face destruction sooner or later. Therefore... we will kill that man and replace him as a God."
Before Mari could understand the meaning of her words, Mother joined her hands once again and closed her eyes.
"Please rest assured. Once we become a god, we'll be able to make it so this never happened. The pollution of the world, this gruesome war, human death... we will return it all to how it was."
"You say you're going to become a God?!"
Mother Goose responded frankly.
Immediately after that, magical power was spread and magic circles covered the sky.
Like angels, an army of countless Einherjars descended from the magic circles.
"No way... this is ridiculous...!"
Mari was speechless as she recognized how mighty was the existence she was confronting.
"——This is, mercy."
Tears of blood dripped down from Mother's wide-opened eyes.
The situation was overturned again.
"So many Einherjars... how are we supposed to fight them...?!"
This time, she had no spell that she could use. Summoning a Sacred Beast like Kirin was something that couldn't be done one time after another. If it were two or three Einherjars they could fight against them, but these numbers are... there were so many of them they couldn't grasp their numbers.
The members of Heretic Alliance were unable to find a way to survive, the weapons they gripped in their hands trembled.
Hidden in the shadow of the rubble, his face pale, Takeru was unable to move.
He could hear intense sound of combat. Although he couldn't see it from shade of the rubble, he could feel the aftermath of magic shake the earth.
"You can't. Don't move."
"...I can't... do that..."
"Be reasonable. We knew this would happen as we brought you along. We actually wanted to leave you behind."
Ikaruga made an unusually sad expression.
Her loving and affectionate heart could be felt through her palm. Don't go, is what Ikaruga's body temperature was saying.
Feeling it nearly impossible to shake off her hand, Takeru's chest hurt.
"Still, the reason we brought you... is because you're needed here. Probably, the only one who can end this fighting is you."
"It seems like everyone thinks so."
Kusanagi Kiseki. Ootori Sougetsu. Orochi and Mother Goose.
Ikaruga was convinced that the only one who could stand against them was Takeru.
Everyone wondered, why was it Takeru of all people. He shouldered grief since young, sacrificed everything in order to become stronger, has lived a life without ever tasting happiness of a normal person, and yet is tossed about at mercy of the world, was utilized and is suffering like this.
Why is his destiny to continue fighting endlessly?
It's so unreasonable, it makes me sick.
That's what Ikaruga thought.
"I'm the same... I hate the myself to no end for letting you fight."
Which time was it that he watched Ikaruga's self-loathing.
It was always a refreshing sight, but it wasn't something to be seen repeatedly. He could feel tightening in his chest.
Unconsciously, Takeru stroked Ikaruga's cheek. She downcast her eyes.
"...your turn is still ahead... in order to have your quarrel with your little sister, you need to conserve your strength. Leave the rest of those troublesome guys to us."
"Please be more selfish. Ignore stuff like the world or war, for now... just look at your own goal."
Be selfish, it might have been the first time he was told that.
After all, Takeru always thought only about himself. Stopping war, saving his little sister, was for his own sake after all.
He couldn't recall doing any self-sacrifice, he never intended any.
"I can't do that...either."
While saying so, Takeru raised his body.
Ikaruga's hand moved away from his forehead reluctantly.
As Takeru put his hand on the rubble, facing the battlefield, his back was far from looking reliable.
"If even a single comrade of mine dies... my wish won't come true."
Only his will would never break.
Ikaruga muttered towards his back.
"...you're really... selfish."
Takeru smiled bitterly and started walking without looking back.
There no longer was any need to worry about his blurry vision.
"Lapis, shall we go?"
He asked his partner.
《"...of course, Host."》
When he heard Lapis' voice, strangely, the screaming of his brain subsided.
Lapis would no longer try to stop Takeru. Just like his other comrades, she knew that there was no use trying to stop him.
And above all, Lapis was Takeru's partner.
The sword and its user were one.
Words were no longer necessary.
"Strengthen my body and all my nerves. Make it so my body won't break..."
《"Understood. I will protect you from your own ability. I do not recommend using God Hunter form. Most likely, the soul fusion can be suppressed only one more time."》
"I don't think that would work with Master as an opponent... in case it's necessary, we can only believe in Ouka."
Takeru materialized Mistilteinn in his right hand.
A hundred meters ahead, he could see Ouka, Mari and the others confronting Mother Goose.
Along with pillars of light, Einherjars descended from the sky.
Watching the spectacle reminiscent of the world ending from a distance, Takeru breathed in deeply and stopped.
I won't let even one of them die.
This power——I obtained it in order to protect, after all.
Takeru stopped suppressing the Soumatou.
——The world stopped.
——He could grasp the entire space clearly.
——In middle of headache that made him feel like he was going crazy, his consciousness was sharpened.
It was the same as back then. Just like when he fought Kurogane Hayato, he could feel as if himself losing human thoughts. His heart turned into one like that of a beast, only seeking one thing.
It turned into a heart of a demon.
Protect. Protect. Protect.
Protect thoroughly, protect all, obtain it.
Takeru squinted his eyes stained red and swung his sword in front of himself.
"Summis desiderantes affectibus——"
At the same time as he pointed the sword at Mother Goose, he swung it sideways.
His body was wrapped by armor, strength filled him.
Now, let's go. Let's go protect our comrades.
Takeru put the sword in the sheath, hooked his finger against the collar and hoarded repulsive force with abandon.
Then submerged his waist low and focused all his nerves on using his legs like springs.
A seething hot sigh leaked. In the stopped word, even his breath stopped.
Meanwhile, Takeru started moving.
At the same time he raised his face, he released the spring of his legs.
"Kusanagi Double-Edged style————Heavenly Evil Spirit."
Two hundred meters left until reaching first enemy. It mattered not that they were floating fifty meters above the ground.
For Takeru as he was now——one step was enough.
The moment he used his legs to spring up, he was already in front of the first Einherjar.
Even if they were given souls of veteran warriors, they couldn't capture this movement. He released the blade from the sheath and cut apart the enemy diagonally all at once.
There was no change after the slash. The armor hit by the impact of the slash had sloo...oowly, burst.
Before the Einherjar was crushed, he kicked off its wreckage and assaulted next Einherjar from surprise.
Rotating forward, he smashed Lapis' blade into Einherjars' brain.
Immediately after the blade hit its head, to increase the slashes' power he kicked the back of the blade.
Then using the Einherjars' head as a scaffold, he jumped again.
"Extend the blade."
He couldn't hear the response. However, just as he instructed her to, Lapis extended the blade as far as possible.
Once the blade extended up to fifty meters, Takeru squeezed the blade behind his waist and twisted his body.
Using the omnidirectional sword-drawing technique, Takeru cut down twenty Einherjars in the sky at once.
Remaining in the surroundings were fifteen of them.
His vision had started to flicker. If he doesn't hurry, he won't be able to go back. Since the targets for protection included his own life, the timing for quitting it was also important.
"——Unicorn's Destructive Lance!"
Therefore, Takeru further accelerated.
"——Yamata no Orochi!"
Ten remaining, five, three.
Using up all his techniques, Takeru approached the limit.
He roared like something that wasn't human and sent the last Einherjar back to the afterlife.
After slaughtering nearly forty of them, Takeru landed in front of Ouka and the others.
He slowly sheathed the sword.
Immediately after the collar hit the sheath with a metallic sound, he put on a lid on Soumatou.
That moment——more than half of the Einherjars blew up.
In middle of something swirling that couldn't be described as impact nor air turbulence, seeing Takeru appear in front of them before they realized, Ouka and the others opened their eyes wide.
Everything happened in an instant. They were distracted by the Einherjars exploding one after another, and the next moment Takeru was in front of them.
Ouka called out to Takeru's back, who was on his knees and couldn't move.
His body shook for a few seconds, but he stood up right after that.
"Just now... did you do that...?"
When Ouka asked that with a trembling voice, Takeru turned around looking as he usually did.
He had the usual, good-natured smile.
"I've made you worry. I'm all right now."
Hitting his chest with a fist, Takeru said that trying to reassure everyone.
The 35th Platoon's members understood it was a bluff at a glance.
There was blood dripping from his right eye.
Takeru immediately wiped off his eye with fingers. His right eye was blind.
《"Regenerating optic nerves as soon as possible, reconnecting... please refrain from using Soumatou for long periods of time."》
Responding with affirmatively in his mind, he looked at his comrades with just one eye.
Everyone probably didn't know what happened. That's how fast Takeru was when attacking the Einherjars.
In order not to worry them, he put on the usual wry smile and tried to say something.
"——As usual, you're horrible at using those techniques."
Hearing a voice from behind him, Takeru turned around vigorously.
There was Mother Goose floating in the air. And one more person, a figure staring at Takeru from on top of the rubble.
For a moment, Takeru couldn't tell who was it.
But there was only one person who would talk to him this way.
However, standing there was a young man. His age was about the same as Takeru's. His long black hair was carried by the wind, his crimson eyes glared at Takeru, and he carried a sword on his shoulder. Seeing the raised chin and fangs peeking from his mouth as he smiled, it can't be, Takeru thought.
One shoulder was exposed and bloody, but Takeru was familiar with the kimono he was wearing.
Above all, the shape of his face——resembled Takeru's a lot.
"You, it can't be... Master...?!"
"Yup. Kakaka, what's with yer' face, surprised by my youthfulness?"
The youth laughed merrily.
That distinctive laughter was without a doubt, that of Kusanagi Orochi's.
But, what did this mean? Orochi's actual age was over hundred and fifty years, his appearance should have been that of a forty-year old. But right now he looked like a twenty-year old. Even his voice was just like Takeru's.
"Even though I got myself vampire cells embedded, 's not like I'm eternally young y'know. In preparation for battle of my lifetime, I've supplied myself a 'lil."
"Supplied...? What with...?!"
As Takeru asked warily, Orochi raised the edges of his mouth and laughed evilly.
"——I ate 'em. About half the humans in this city."
Doubting his ears, Takeru's back froze.
Half the people in the city that had hundreds of thousands citizens?
Then was that why they didn't meet any people on the way to the academy?
"To say, after having the cells embedded, I've become a half-vampire... Dhampir, was it? A state close to somthin' like 'dat."
"That race was convenient since long ago y'know. They continued to research them as they embodied perfect immortality. And, that'd make me the only successful result of the research."
Takeru heard of that before.
The race called Vampires had gone extinct a thousand years ago. There was an urban legend that a mixed species of humans and vampires called Dhampirs has survived. Dhampirs' existence wasn't confirmed and they only existed in history books about history from a thousand years ago.
However, it was a fact that the science and the magic science both studied it actively, the witches experimented with transplanting vampire cells midway through Witch Hunt War.
Which resulted with failures. It was said there were no successes, but... Orochi called himself a successful example.
Dhampirs were rid of the Vampire's disadvantages.
They were still semi-immortal, could heal their wounds by sucking blood, and could stop themselves from ageing.
Orochi wiped off the blood on his mouth with a hand and a spat out a toothpick he was biting on.
"Really, I sure was rejuvenated thanks to 'dat. My first meal in hundred and fifty years sure was delicious."
"Did'ya know? The saying 'you can't fight on an empty stomach' was actually left behind by one of Kusanagi's ancestors."
"Laugh, Takeru. It was a joke."
Still glaring, Orochi laughed as he looked down at Takeru.
Even among Kusanagi, Orochi was a heretic. To this man, since he had a soul of a demon, he'd be glad to have the body of a demon as well.
But... Takeru believed that he had human feelings.
Strict, merciless, selfish and self-centered, but he was also caring and reliable.
Takeru thought of him as of a second father.
"——!! WHAT THE HELL YOU DOIN' DAMMIT!!"
His face distorting in anger and sorrow, Takeru cried out.
The moment he tried to move, Orochi pointed the sword he had on his shoulder at Takeru at speed unable to grasp with one's sight.
Everyone felt chills.
No one in this place was able to move.
There was difference in mettle. They were on different levels. Their quality as organisms was different.
The dread was equal or even greater than that they felt when facing Kurogane Hayato, their survival instincts as living organisms itself screamed.
"What, ya ask... same thing you are. I'm moving in order to achieve my own goal. To bring back Mikoto... dat's all."
"And for that you ate people of this city...? Unrelated people... women, children...?!"
"Yeah, I ate 'em. When it comes to blood, younger are better y'know. As long as Mikoto's revived and can live a normal life, I don't give a shit 'bout this world."
Takeru's vision was dyed red.
He felt countless debts of gratitude to Orochi. Trusted him. Felt close to him. Respected him.
However——Takeru could no longer forgive the man in front of him.
Not as a demon, not as Kusanagi Takeru.
The human part that rooted itself inside Takeru was furious, unable to forgive him.
"What's with ya, bein' a full-fledged ally of justice, huh... are ya really a Kusanagi?"
"If destroying this world is what you want, you're my enemy...!"
"Destroy? Aah... don't worry. Once Mother and I become a God, we can turn everythin' back to how it was y'know? Do a reset. All the folks who died will be back too. Hahaha! There's no better happy end is there?!"
Gripping the sword with his left hand Orochi spread his arm and said so. It was as if that was all just a bonus on top of getting what he wants.
Takeru clenched his back teeth soundly, outraged.
"Eat shit...! I'm only interested in now, only this moment...! I won't acknowledge you!"
"Even if all that's remaining is despair, no matter how painful it is, it's meaningless if I don't save this world!"
He raised his sword and pointed it at Orochi.
Orochi squinted and stared at Takeru a little enviously.
"Must be feelin' good not to have lost anythin' yet... well, neither of us got any intention of understanding each other, eh. Indeed indeed, that's Kusanagi for ya."
"No understandin', no acceptance... then——what'cha gonna do, Takeru? C'mon what, Takeru. With that sword pointin' at me, that blade, that point of a sword——WHAT'CHA GONNA DO ABOUT MYSELFF?!"
Raising his chin, stirring Takeru up with his words, Orochi shouted showing his fangs together with both joy and anger.
Takeru resolved himself and confronted that anger from the front.
"Kusanagi Double-Edged style's initiate, Kusanagi Takeru! Master... I'm going to——cut you down!"
On the other hand, Orochi slowly swung his shining sword and received Takeru's declaration of war joyously.
"Kusanagi Double-Edged style's instructor, Kusanagi Orochi——I'll give ya a trashing! Come at me, stupid disciple!"
Then, Orochi turned away and leaped, moving deeper into the academy.
It wasn't that he was fleeing. Orochi wanted an one-on-one showdown with Takeru.
"Takeru, leave this place to us."
Ouka put her hand on Takeru's shoulder and said so.
"It's fine. Thanks to you, quite a lot of Einherjars were disposed of. Follow that man. We'll deal with the witch."
Takeru stopped for a moment, but seeing other of his comrades nod, he clenched his sword.
"——Sorry, I leave it to you!"
Leaving those words behind, Takeru chased after Orochi.
Honestly speaking, Takeru wanted to fight Orochi alone as well.
It wasn't that he didn't trust in his comrades' power.
It wasn't his pride as a swordsmanship either.
In the past, Orochi once said.
——Men of Kusanagi don't use words to talk. We're dumb y'know, so we can't converse well.
——That's why we Kusanagi, talk with our swords.
Takeru remembered these words even now.
There was no choice but to clash.
Orochi said that they can't understand each other, but Takeru didn't think so yet.
If they can only talk through sword, he'll swing it with his all and learn Orochi's real intentions.
There has to be some reason. Orochi wouldn't slaughter the weak for his own selfishness and then try make it as if nothing happened.
Takeru still hasn't believed that Orochi would be that inhuman.
No. He didn't want to believe.
Crystal Vanish (クリスタルバニッシュ) - It's written "The Way Crystal Glitters" (水晶は斯くも輝く) and read as "Crystal Vanish". The Japanese reading is quite ambigious.
Aurora Fortress (アウローラ・フオートレス ) - It's written "Fortress of Light" (光の城塞) and read as "Aurora Fortress".